Parent’s Guide to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and ChatGPTApr 12, 2023
As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more prevalent in our daily lives, it’s completely normal as parents to be wondering how this latest type of tech will impact our kids.
From personalized learning to social media algorithms, AI has the potential to shape the way our children learn, play, and interact with the world around them. As parents, it's important to stay informed and engaged in this rapidly evolving field, so we can help our children navigate the complex landscape of AI and what it holds for the future.
What is AI?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a field of computer science that focuses on creating intelligent machine learning that can be used to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence—such as reasoning or problem-solving.
AI has been developed using algorithms and computer programs to process large amounts of data, learn from it, and make decisions based on that data.
What is ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is an innovative and awe-inspiring tool that can mimic human conversation and provide realistic responses.
Imagine that if you ask ChatGPT a question, it will respond just as a human would. So instead of asking “What is the distance to the moon?” and getting hundreds of thousands of responses in a few seconds, ChatGPT will provide you with a nicely structured written answer.
What is it used for?
Depending on the question, ChatGPT can write like a journalist, craft a 100-word essay, create a book outline, draft a blogpost, answer math questions, write a poem, a rap, or a screenplay. And unfortunately, it can also provide human answers that are just plain wrong.
What are the risks of AI tools like ChatGPT?
- Misinformation: In the same way that AI tools can be used as a creative aid for written content, they can also be used to create compelling, fake information. Children (and indeed adults) may not be able to decipher what’s real and what’s fake.
- Bias. Because of how ChatGPT is trained on existing data, if that data contains any sort of bias, misinformation, or propaganda, this has the potential to filter into the responses it provides.
- Outdated and/ or incorrect information: By its own admission, ChatGPT is outdated and “has limited knowledge of world events after 2021”. It’s also a tool that is very much still in development. Because of this, the information it provides cannot be relied upon as accurate.
- Inappropriate content: Whether your kids are being a bit mischievous with the questions they’re asking or not, there are no current age restrictions or parental controls for ChatGPT, so there’s no guarantee your child won’t create or read something that they shouldn’t.
- Overdependence/ cheating: Like with any tech tool in your child’s life, if they become too reliant on it for their learning or schoolwork, they may not be developing the right skills. Being overly dependent on AI assistance at such a young age may hinder research skills, critical thinking, and so on. There’s also the possibility that AI generated content for schoolwork may be seen as against the rules or even cheating.
How can parents educate their children about AI?
Your children and young people can use ChatGPT responsibly and safely, just like every other tech tool that exists. And yes, there are risks associated with ChatGPT, but even if I were to give you the perfect parental control tech tip, I assure you that your techy-savvy, digital street-smart children would find a way to circumvent the tech, then share it with their friends and eventually upload the workaround to YouTube so that all children could revel in their new ChatGPT freedoms.
So instead of banning ChatGPT altogether, let’s look at how we can use this new tech tool, responsibly and safely, following these five straightforward digital parenting strategies.
1. Keep up with tech trends
As with all the goings on in today’s digital world, parents and caregivers do not need to know the specific details of how everything digital works, but they do need to have an idea of what’s happening around them.
- Ask your children, ask other parents, ask the teachers—what cool things are happening online? What not-so-cool things are trending?
- Watch or read about the latest trends but keep your head, the first rule of parenting in a digital age is “Don’t panic. Parent.”
2. Use your critical thinking skills
You’ve got your hands on a computer with access to ChatGPT, so dive in and play around.
- What are some of the best and worst-case scenarios?
- What could ChatGPT be used for? How can this improve your child’s workload? How could it prove detrimental?
- What can you say to your child to lay out some ground rules about using ChatGPT?
- Can you speak with your child’s teacher to see how they can use ChatGPT in the classroom—while teaching a bit of digital literacy at the same time?
- If your child can use Wikipedia, or Google search to do homework, how might they successfully use ChatGPT to do homework?
3. Remember the limitations, and act accordingly
As wonderful as ChatGPT appears at first glance, it can generate incorrect information, harmful or biased content, and it has limited knowledge of world events after 2021.
- Another great moment for digital literacy as you teach your children to question what they see online. How do they know that the information is correct? How can they verify or disprove the content?
- Test it with your children—ask complex questions, like “What is the meaning of life” and then have discussions with your child where you express your values and expectations.
4. Think about how you will deal with inappropriate content and/or requests
Just like with the internet in general, there can be inappropriate content in the responses that ChatGPT provides or in the questions that your darling child asks. Again, don’t panic. Parent.
I tested it by asking: “What do I do if I have an STD?” ChatGPT provided me with a paragraph long response which included directions to see a health professional. I then wrote “I’m feeling sad” and ChatGPT again responded human-like, with a reference to a national hotline.
This might be a good time to let your child or young person know that you are always ready to support them and that they can talk to you about anything.
5. Keep those conversations going
ChatGPT is a complex source of information, however, you can engage with your children about how to use it wisely. But that’s just it—you have to engage with them.
- Get those conversations started and keep them going by showing interest in your child’s online world and activities.
- Speak with other parents and be open-minded to different opinions.
We are all in this together and we are searching for solutions that will allow our families to thrive and survive in a digital age. Don’t panic. Parent.
Dr. Elizabeth Milovidov is a lawyer, law professor and child online protection expert with more than 20 years’ experience in Europe and the US. She created DigitalParentingCoach.com, a website for parents/caregivers containing practical resources, community insights and evidence-based strategies. She is an author, international speaker and advisor and her work has been featured in BBC, France 24, WSJ, FT, OZY and other media focused on parenting in a digital age.
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